Virginia veterans David Dean and Canaan Severin spoke with reporters on Monday at the ACC Media Days in Pinehurst, North Carolina, as the Cavaliers pursue a bowl game in a make-or-break season for Mike London in Charlottesville. Read some of what they had to say below. All quotes courtesy of ASAPSports.com
Q. You had a record of 2-10 two years ago. You had a nice improvement last year going to 5-7. What makes you think you can be a bowl team this year?
DAVID DEAN: I guess continuing to keep learning from our mistakes. We have a lot of guys with experience, a lot of guys that played last year. So now we bring those same guys back, and now they’re able to pass on their wisdom to the younger guys who didn’t play. Now you just have a lot of knowledge, knowledge for our mistakes the past year. Now we have the ability to fix those mistakes, correct what we did wrong, now go on to try to have just as successful of a season as we had last year.
Q. Your head coach has come up in a lot of different things as being on the hot seat. You spent a lot of time with him over the years. What can you say about Mike and his team and what he’s created and what you think about him.
DAVID DEAN: Coach London is a very passionate guy. He treats us just like we’re his kids to an extent. He really tries to take care of us, he always looks out for us. It’s more than football with him. He really cares about our development, becoming great students, scholars coming out of the University of Virginia. It’s all bigger than football with him. That kind of pushes us to go that much harder out there for him, really play for him, and kind of keep him from being fired from his job. I mean, we really have nothing to do with the outside opinions, the outside forces of his job. At the end of the day, our job is to execute the game plan. Whatever we’re told to do, we’re going to do. Whatever play is given, we’re going to execute. That’s what we do at the end of the day.
Q. You lost a great pass-rusher last year in Eli Harold, a lot of linebackers. Do you feel like you have the guys to fill those holes on the defense?
DAVID DEAN: Yeah. Eli, Max, Dede, Henry, they were all great players. It’s hard to replace those guys. I do feel like we have guys with great talent. They bought in. They have the ability to be just as successful as those guys were. Those guys, Mike Moore, Micah Kiser, Trent Corney, they sat behind those guys that were playing in front of them. They learned from Eli, Max and Henry. They have that wisdom that was passed down to them to come forward as starters, rise to the occasion, grab the spotlight, go out there and ball.
Q. Do you feel like there might be somebody this year to have a breakout season, maybe even yourself?
DAVID DEAN: Yeah, me (smiling). I think Trent Corney is a guy that he hasn’t done much for us. He’s really sat in the shadows all four years. But he’s a physical specimen, fast, explosive, he can run, rush the passer, he can be physical, he can possibly have a 10-sack season. Then there’s Mike Moore, another great pass-rusher who has a lot of finesse, come off the edge and make great plays. Those are the type of players that succeed in coach’s defense because it sets us up to do so.
Q. Without giving away any trade secrets, how many different blitzes does Coach Tenuta have? He comes up with new ones as the year goes along, does he not?
DAVID DEAN: Yes, he does.
Q. How much fun is it to play in his system?
DAVID DEAN: It is awesome. He’s so aggressive. His aggressiveness really rubs off on us because him sending in blitzes all the time, it makes us believe. It gives us confidence that we will get to the quarterback every play. He’s a genius. I mean, every week he’s coming up with a scheme that will make us successful against that specific offense. He can just pull up a book and write up a defense right there and it will be successful. He’s a genius. It really helps us out as a defense, because the offense never knows what to expect. A lot of the times we’re just defensive linemen coming free.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAVID DEAN: Maybe. I won’t tell. I’m not telling the secrets. I’m not getting yelled at (laughter).
Q. Have you done anything this summer to amp up the bonding? Last year you had the Kings Dominion trip.
DAVID DEAN: How did you know about that trip (smiling)? We have done things similar to that. Cookouts, Kings Dominion. We’ve gone to team dinners. Position leaders have done things specifically to create more of a bond there. There’s a lot of different things we’ve done as a team. Unity is something we take pride in. We really came closer together last season. That’s something we built on and is something we’re going to continue to keep building on.
Q. What else needs to be built upon this year?
DAVID DEAN: Just the focus on eliminating mistakes, eliminating plays that will kill us. For defense, we have to eliminate the big plays. We can’t let 50- or 60-yard runs, that kills us. Offense can’t turn the ball over. Just focusing on the little things that contribute to the outcome of a game. Those one, two, three, however many plays it might be, it’s a small amount of plays that can determine the outcome of a game. Those are the things that we have to make sure we’re focusing on, the little things.
Q. David, you talked about some keys in the off-season, getting the team ready for this season, hopefully a breakthrough. What are those keys?
DAVID DEAN: We have an emphasis on energy every day, just approaching the workout. It could be workouts, it could be film, drills, whatever it is, coming in there with high energy, coming in there with a purpose to get better. We talked about coming in with great focus, focusing on small details, ’cause if you focus on small details in workouts, we’re going to do the same thing in the game. Everything relates. Then finally just finishing. Everything we do, we finish with maximum effort. Every workout, every play, every rep, everything we do we come out with full effort and we finish with full effort.
THE MODERATOR: David, thank you. We’re join understand by Canaan Severin at the podium. Questions, please.
Q. Describe your teammate to us.
CANAAN SEVERIN: David Dean, not the best looking guy in the room ever really. Beard needs to be lined up. The list goes on and on for him (smiling). Other than that, he’s a competitor, man. I’ll go into any battle with him. That’s really based on the way I’ve seen him work, the way we work next to each other every morning. I just know what he’s about. He’s a competitor. I’m a competitor. He loves getting after it. He loves facing the so-called best. He’s excited for our schedule. Yeah, he just competes, man, flat out competes.
Q. Canaan, Matt Johns, Greyson Lambert had experience out there. What can you say about the quarterbacks at Virginia, your relationships with those guys at this point?
CANAAN SEVERIN: Greyson transferred to Georgia. He’s a graduate of the University of Virginia, so he’s my brother no matter what. I’m really excited for the opportunity Matt Johns has in front of him, though. He showed us last year he can come in and play. Not many times you have your number one transfer and your number two guy play and you don’t skip a beat. This summer we’ve been working on getting our timing right, getting everything down with the defense, seven-on-seven, film work, cadence, whatever it may be. Really just focus on finishing every drill, every rep, every workout, whatever it is. So hopefully that will translate over in the season.
Q. You made a nice three-game improvement last year. What makes you believe that this team can get to six wins this year and be a bowl team?
CANAAN SEVERIN: Two years ago we won two games. We knew we had to step it up last summer. There was a lot on the line. That’s what we did. We got five games out of it last year. We were three or four games away. Honestly, just finishing down the stretch is what we have to do. That’s what’s going to separate us and get us over the hump. NC State, Tech, UCLA, we lose by eight. Duke, seven. Just finishing down the stretch, we believe that will get us over that hump.
Q. How have you seen Matt Johns change now that he is the leader, the quarterback? Do you see a change in him as far as just the way he carries himself?
CANAAN SEVERIN: Yes, sir. I think he has to be. I tell him all the time, he’s not the captain of the team, he’s not labeled the captain, but as a quarterback playing football, the ball is in his hands every single play no matter what. The ball starts with him. So I see it in his work ethic. I see it in the way he carries himself. That’s just the way he is, though. He’s a competitor, as well. You should see us in the mornings working out. Our racks are right next to each other. I workout with Johns, we run into David Dean, so we just compete even against each other. That’s going to translate over in the season. We’re all about competing, competing day in and day out on a consistent basis. Matt Johns has done a great job of bringing people under his wings. The quarterbacks, the transfer quarterbacks, the younger guys, whatever it may be, he’s done a really good job of doing that. Finishing down the stretch, we have to finish in every aspect.
Q. For four years we’ve watched Kevin Parks worm his way through opposing defenses for touchdowns. Obviously you’re going to continue to run the ball. How will the Virginia running game look different without Kevin Parks?
CANAAN SEVERIN: I think we won’t skip a beat. I think our new coaches have brought a new feel to our run game. I’m really confident in that. Dave Borbely is the offensive line coach, the offensive lines he’s put together, really help the run game. Just to be around him, I try to learn as much as I can, even though I’m not an offensive lineman. He’s been on so many winning teams. Even this last spring you can see the improvements the offense made. I think we’re going to be okay.
Q. You got off to a great start last year, then stumbled down the stretch. This year your first four games are brutal. Could be a tough start. What do you think about the first four?
CANAAN SEVERIN: I think that just goes back, to be honest, why I chose to play college football, to play college athletics. I love facing the so-called best. I love facing guys that are here today, whether it’s Jalen Ramsey from Florida State, Fuller from Tech, whoever it may be. I just love facing those dudes. I loved facing UCLA last year. I love that Notre Dame is coming in the second game of the season. I just love to compete, man. I’m a competitor. That’s who I am as a person. I think my teammates can stick up for that statement, as well. I really can’t wait. I know my guys are excited to get after it. That’s all we’ve been talking about, all we’ve been working towards all summer, ever since the season ended really last year. We just want to compete and get after it. We really can’t wait. It’s a great opportunity. We’re going to take advantage of it.
Q. Do you feel any pressure to do well as a team this year, make the post-season, with your coach’s job riding on it?
CANAAN SEVERIN: You know, everyone has been talking about the hot seat. This is college football. This is college athletics. This is a bottom-line business. Either you’re winning or losing. If someone is losing, they’re on the hot seat. That’s just the way it is. That’s just sports. We can control the controllables, do what we have to do. Literally we’ve been trying to compete every single day. We have been competing every single day against each other and working on finishing down the stretch. When the season comes, it’s going to roll over. Everyone be all right.